The Children’s Communication Centre

| June 12, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Fay Bjornstad

In a charming heritage building at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), nestled among the jacaranda trees of Jubilee Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, lies a preschool that provides a specialised programme to children with language and hearing difficulties.

The Children’s Communication Centre, as it is now known, was established in 1976 and is affiliated to the department of speech pathology and audiology at Wits.1

It is a clinically driven centre that aims to be a centre of excellence in the identification and management of preschool children with specific speech, language and hearing impairments, by providing small classes and individualised, intensive therapy.

‘Playing’ catch-up, quickly

The centre rehabilitates and remediates learners’ speech, language and hearing impairments for their language development to progress quickly. The availability of advanced technology and remediation techniques administered by a qualified team of professionals means the centre’s goals are achievable.

Children enter the preschool programme from the age of three years. In the fully equipped audiology department, audiologists assist with the fitting of hearing aids and cochlear implants, as well as providing speech therapy on an outpatient basis to young children. The audiologists are involved in the Johannesburg Cochlear Implant Programme2 and they provide pre- and post-operative support, counselling and technical support to young recipients of cochlear implants.

Regular classes with intensive remediation

Each class comprises a maximum of eight learners with the exception of the Grade R class, which has 10 learners. The pre- Grade R classes each have a teacher and full-time classroom assistant, and placement is in accordance with language ability, while age and social and emotional development all serve as guiding factors.

The preschool programme follows the national pre-primary curriculum.3 Adaptations are made by the class teachers to cater to the needs of the individual child. We also make environmental adaptations to enhance learning and development.

The children engage in regular preschool activities such as baking, art, maths and literacy. An external music therapist provides music lessons to each class once a week, where skills such as rhythm, sequencing and listening are developed.

Trained therapists on hand

Speech and language therapy services form an integral part of the programme. All our students receive three sessions of speech therapy per week, and therapists provide much input and guidance to the classroom programme. Therapists liaise with the teachers and other therapists on the optimal interventions, strategies and goals for the language- and hearing-impaired child.

The centre also provides physiotherapy and occupational therapy services to those children who require extra support and intervention. Many of the children require assistance with their motor skills and sensory skills for optimal functioning and development. A part-time clinical psychologist provides support services to vulnerable children and their families.

What to watch out for

The success of the programme is largely due to the intensity of therapy and remedial teaching, the active involvement of parents and the timing of the intervention. The sooner a child receives intervention services, the better the prognosis. Early diagnosis is imperative to minimise the gap in language exposure for both language- and hearing-impaired children. If parents detect the following signs in their infant children, they should be alerted to possible hearing problems:4

Birth–two years:

  • My baby does not startle to sudden loud sounds.
  • My baby does not respond to my voice by looking or turning.
  • My baby does not enjoy rattles or noise-making toys.
  • My baby does not respond to their name (six to twelve months).
  • My baby does not imitate sounds or simple words or point to familiar objects when asked (12-18 months).
  • My baby has not start talking yet (two years).
  • My baby stopped babbling and became very quiet.

Older children:

  • My child has problems paying attention at school.
  • My child has difficulty understanding speech when they cannot see the speaker.
  • My child uses a loud voice.
  • My child complains that the volume of the radio/TV is too low/soft.
  • My child has a history of frequent ear infections.

ISASA’s support invaluable

The Children’s Communication Centre joined ISASA in January 2007. It was important for the centre, as a non-profit organisation, to be part of an independent association to ensure that the centre meets a high standard of quality and complies with certain criteria, and remains abreast of the latest legislation and protocols.

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Category: Winter 2015

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